January 14, 2010
Late December, the 29th to be exact and we were up before 6.30. We were returning home for the New Year to celebrate with our friends in Snowdonia as planned and wanted to avoid the next forecast snowfall, due later that day. Alas, it was not to be.
Mum rang just after 7.00 frantically saying that Frank had collapsed in the bathroom. We rushed round to her, driving far too fast for the unadopted road and we pulled up next to the Paramedic`s quick response vehicle. The front door was open and I ran upstairs to see Mum sitting on the bed. I peered round the bathroom door to see the Paramedic tending to Frank. I knew the answer but I asked him the question anyway and I couldn`t help but think that the year 2009 just had to have the last word, the final say. I sat next to Mum in disbelief.
Frank had suffered a few near misses in recent years, but although frail at 86, it seemed you couldn`t keep an old dog down. A marine in his day and it had held him in good stead. He looked peaceful and forty years younger, as though all his troubles and frailties had dispersed, but another blow and another hurdle for Mum to overcome.
Your world, a world that was black or white
Frank, strong and principled
Fought your corner with all your might.
A Marine toughened exterior, generous and soft inside
A wicked sense of humour
Someone to trust, someone to confide.
Enriched our lives, stubborn as a mule
knowledge and wisdom to give
More than the web, more than a school.
Time for the Marine to depart this shore
Forever in our thoughts and hearts
Forever and evermore.
Andy, Mandy, Donna & Hanna x
December 27, 2009
The days and weeks have consisted of journeys back and forth. From Porthmadog to Hinckley, from Hinckley to Porthmadog. There is a song in there somewhere. Hospital for chemotherapy, specialists for updates and nurses for blood tests. A constantly revolving door, but Mum`s spirit remained strong, although her operation to take away the cancer has been delayed. A CT scan revealed a large blood clot in her main artery and any operation would be far too dangerous – more dangerous than the cancer operation at this stage. The surgeon has planned more chemotherapy and then she hopes to operate once the blood clot has reduced.
Christmas was spent in the Midlands, with family and friends. A real family affair that was one of the best with lots of festivities and laughter. Mum had her treatment delayed due to her blood levels not recovering sufficiently. Ironically, she was pleased this time as it meant she would not be ill for Christmas and she thoroughly enjoyed it.
We saw lots of Mum, Donna, Hanna, Paul, Kate and Charlie and the snow fell for days and days. A cold but glorious Christmas.
September 08, 2009
The under carriage kissed the well worn runway and the aircraft escorted us to the terminal at London, Luton. A second unplanned repatriation but we wouldn`t wish to be anywhere else right now. Our friend Liz was waiting to whisk us back to her home for tea and then on to Leicester General Hospital to visit mum.
It was a tense journey to the hospital with Liz chatting away with me hopefully, saying the right things in the right places, but I wouldn`t be able to recall what the conversation was, with my mind elsewhere.
As I wandered down the corridor after meeting my sister Ann, we approached the maternity unit, I couldn`t help thinking that maybe mum had broken new ground in medical science and her partner Frank must have a hidden stash of viagra somewhere! A light moment in a dark hour.
Mum naturally, didn`t look her best, but she looked better than I had expected and she was in surprisingly good spirits. It felt good and it felt right to be back. The hour passed all too soon and Ann and I headed back for a pint and a chat to discuss things and to exchange our thoughts on what the future may hold.
September 07, 2009
It has been days now since mum was rushed into Leicester General Hospital so we remained in Camaret waiting for news. When it came, blazing fires ignited deep inside my stomach & searing pains invaded my head. Bad news can be camouflaged but it is always stripped bare in the end & so the pointless exercise was avoided.
The harbour lights are fading fast although we are going nowhere, a cold cold wind blows out our candle & my guitar is struck silent as there are no more songs to be sung & nothing to rhyme. The sorcerer returns to hole our boat, torn asunder.
We drift listlessly, whilst trying to organise a flight home, tortured in our moments of weakness Helpless in this place. Camaret now, unjustly, forever scarred.
A maelstrom of thoughts & memories cascades down in my mind, reliving life in a matter of minutes & suddenly recalling things that have been forgotten for many years. The start of a process? The start of some uncertain weather.
September 06, 2009
Sunday was the annual Camaret ceremony of the blessing of the sea in memory of all those lost at sea, whether through war or the local fishermen. Hundreds paid their respects along the quayside & as yachts & trawlers attended the ceremony in the bay. The ceremony was conducted on the Camaret lifeboat.
As an aside I have included a couple of lovely pictures of a dog on a French yacht next to us. Cool Mut! It`s a dogs life!
September 05, 2009
As events have again dictated the terms, with mum becoming very ill & now in hospital, we have decided to leave Erimar in Camaret & fly home.
Attempting to get the boat lifted out has been fraught. We arrived on the quayside with Erimar prepared for lifting, but the arrangement of the crane, 2 cross girders with hooks, fouled our rigging – so the lift was abandoned. A second attempt was organised for 7.30 Saturday morning using chains which is the method adopted by Madog Boat Yard back in Porthmadog.
Up before dawn to prepare the boat, we again duly arrived quayside. It was all going like clockwork as Erimar parted company with waters she has come to know so well.
With just a foot to go to clear the quay the crane reached its capacity & ran out of height. All that was required to complete the farce was a guest appearance from Brian Rix!
There was the option of organising a mobile crane to lift Erimar, but we were under time pressure & we got the feeling that someone was trying to tell us something! So we decided to leave the boat afloat, winterize her & return home godspeed.
August 29, 2009
It had been near on a week since I had noticed the 2nd reefing line dangling uselessly from the mast end of the boom. Very quietly & surreptitiously it had unknotted itself & gone away on leave down the boom. It had sneaked out of the end hanging enticingly, teasing me, proud of the aggravation. If there was some spare rope handy I would have quite happily hung it there & then!
Rethreading the line back down the boom was to prove to be a tricky assignment. It would double back on itself sticking it`s tongue out at me, it became a battle of wills, sticking two fingers up at me! The cleverest, most stubborn piece of line you would ever wish to meet. I was talking to it, trying to coax it like a child, reason with it as if it had intellect. I would look at it sternly, plead with it, swear at it as though it would make a difference. The brainless thing was beating me! I would even try sneaking up on it to catch it unawares & the men in white coats were wringing their hands in glee.
Twining wire was too thin & took the side of the line, wrapping around itself halfway down the boom, digging trenches & laying mines to deter my attack. I needed something fairly thin, but rigid. The expired seadog at L`Aberwrac`h would be perfect by now!
Anyhow, the answer lay in rigging wire & old Jim Kelly brought the reinforcements & after an hour or so with the support of my corporal, Mandy, the reefing line waved the white flag in surrender. A fight with & to the bitter end! We threatened a court martial if this was to ever occur again!
An Irish boat from Dublin was having a similar battle, but they had taken the boom off & dropped the line back down the boom with a heavy weight on the end. This worked perfectly except they had lost a pin that fitted the boom back to the mast. Three men in a boat with the boom in the cockpit! Fix a problem & create another. That`s life!
Strong winds were keeping us in Camaret & we met up with the Musgraves from Anglesey, Sarah, Nigel & daughter Lucy who was a credit to her parents. A late night but no complaining – refreshing. It was their first trip across the channel too, sailing Clio, a Nicholson 38.
Just hope the wind drops a little & soon!
August 24, 2009
We left Port Launay with the larks, through Guily Glaz lock, the river and into the Rade de Brest scooting with the tide through the Goulet – destination Camaret Sut Mer.
Port Vauban was a surprise to us, in as much as it was so quiet. We quite expected to be rafted out but we were in fact spoilt for choice.
It wasn’t that long before a familiar rat a tat tat emanated through the hull, with the Staffordshire tones of Jim Kelly greeting us. A bit of a character old Jim & it saves time to ask him who he doesn’t know around here! He had a treat in store for us, a tour of the area next day & be ready 10.30 sharp.
So, Tuesday morning we were up with those larks again & raring to go. Chauffeur Jim duly arrived & off we went like a herd of turtles, up hill, down dale, towns, hamlets & sites of strategic military importance. Oh, & the odd beach or two.
Crozon was a lovely town, large by Brittany standards & Le Fret & Roscanvel were tiny pretty hamlets. Mandy was pleased as after Morgat we diverted to a supermarket for shopping & café grand & croissants. As the area was heavily fortified during the war, there was plenty to absorb on the military front. A lovely day & a lovely gesture.
All this military business must have stirred the waters as mid afternoon brought an unannounced visit from customs officials. No half measures here as six officers asked for permission to come aboard Erimar & check our papers. I was sorely tempted to offer a copy of the Telegraph & a Mail but thought better of it – not a time for humour!
Twenty minutes later they politely thanked us & went on their merry way. Six, I ask you! Keeps the unemployment figures down I suppose.
Passage: 26.27nm Distance run so far: 949.67
August 22, 2009
Port Launay & Chanteaulin
The festival of greens returned in earnest, a fertile welcome as we muscled in on the river Aulne. The river mouth is patrolled by the skeletal remnants of the French navy, corroding menacingly in a threatening eerie silence. A blunt reminder of an uneasy truce.
Deep rich greens chaperone the Aulne to Port Launay & Chateaulin – the gateway to Brittany. Industrial Brest may as well have been a million miles away.
Tall reeds govern the river banks offering refuge to the kingfishers, egrets, herons & a gentle meander is warranted to absorb this beautiful, enchanting utopia. The 15 miles to the exquisite Guily Glaz lock flowed by all too soon with the viaduct the prelude to charming Port Launay.
We followed the daunting form of a Lagoon 410 catamaran, Aquarelle, in to the lock, but we managed to snuggle up behind.
Chateaulin, a lovely market town, marked our journeys end, rafting out on the tiny pontoon for the princely sum of 6 euros a night. The town was a draw for English yachts with just a solitary French presence squeezing in late on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon & evening flew by as we all met up on Erimar for drinks & Jim`s party trick!
Passage:23.23nm Distance run so far: 923.40
August 19, 2009
Moulin-Blanc is out of the city of Brest & just a ripple or two from the mouth of the river Elorn .The marina is a modern affair as you might expect of a city like Brest. Manoeuvring isn`t a problem here with plenty of width all around, in the fingers & the approaches. Everything with regard to the marina & the periphery is clean & tidy, with no missing seadog`s here. It is a hive of activity with children well catered for, there are sailing schools on all day, everyday.
We needed to replenish our water supply, which usually requires an attachment that threads on to a tap. Not in Moulin-Blanc. The arrangement here is something we have not come across before. The water supply requires a male connector that is inserted into the fitting on the pontoon. It is just pushed in. This immediately releases the water supply, so the water is either on full pelt, or off. There is no pressure control. We didn`t posses the fitting but the Capitainerie kindly apprehended a nearby Frenchman, who lent us one.
It was quite obvious where the English yachts were moored, as frowning bemused skippers & crews pondered the arrangement. Even those with the appropriate connector failed to deal with the water pressure, as hoses splayed to & fro over decks & pontoons strafing anyone in the vicinity, with wives yelling from companionways as water showered in from open hatches!
Mandy decided to fill our tanks & hose the boat down while I got forty winks – as you do. Good sport! Fore armed is fore warned you might think. Not in the case of the Erimar crew! Mandy joined the ranks of the splaying hose club, Brest branch, soaking herself, with water everywhere but where it should be. To make matters worse the borrowed hose connector was unceremoniously jettisoned into the harbour with the full force of the pressure, sinking teasingly to the bottom before her very eyes!
Panic. How do you say “ sorry I`ve just lost your hose connector” in French! So, there she was, no connector, a partly cleaned boat & no water in the tanks.
Meekly she found the right honourable Frenchman to explain in her best sign language, her predicament. ”No problem”, he replied. So, understandably, I was awoken from my slumber to hear of Mandy`s turmoil. The connector had been playing on her mind, as in the late afternoon she explained her cunning plan. The dinghy was to be launched to retrieve the offending item as the tide was on the wane. We had nothing suitable with which to reach the connector, but Mandy would not be deterred by such a minor detail. She thrust a boat hook in my direction with our cullinder securely strapped to the end. The dinghy was launched with Mandy, quite properly, inside. She prodded furiously at the embedded connector eventually succeeding in retrieving it.Fantastic!
Proud as punch off she went to the Frenchman to hand him his connector & appease him, to which he explained that it was not his & he had borrowed it from the Capitainerie in the first place!
After all this excitement we were pleased to join Graham & Di Lindsay on “Mayflower” their Parker 325 for evening drinks & a good old natter to end quite a day. I`m tired just writing about it!